19 Exercises in Chair to Stay Active When You’re Deskbound

This is a list of 19 exercises in a chair to stay active when you’re deskbound.

As things go, if you want to perform well in sports it’s important to reduce the effects of sitting throughout the day.

These exercises are excellent to improve blood circulation, activate your postural muscles, and prevent back & shoulder pain.

I use them myself when I feel stiff, mostly in my shoulder girdle. They help me to relax and renew my focus.

I share leg exercises in a chair, core exercises, and many more.

Each of the exercises in a chair comes with an explanation and sharp visuals.

So you can try them right away.

Are you ready to move in your chair?

  1. Posture While Sitting at Work
  2. How to Respond to Pain and Discomfort
  3. Neck Exercises in Chair
    1. Say Yes
    2. Lateral Flexions
    3. Cervical Rotation
    4. Head Circles
  4. Shoulder Exercises in Chair
    1. Trapezius Stretch
    2. Thoracic Flexion-Extension
    3. Spinal Twist.
    4. Shoulder Girdle Protraction-Retraction
    5. Shoulder Press
  5. Core Exercises in Chair
    1. Pelvic Nutation & Contra Nutation
    2. Chair Dance
    3. Knee Raise
    4. Almost Get Up
  6. Leg Exercises in Chair
    1. Leg Extension
    2. Floor Squeeze
    3. Ankle Pumps
  7. Bonus Exercises in Chair
    1. Deep Breathing
    2. Forearm Flexor Stretch
    3. Forearm Extensor Stretch
  8. Closing Note

Posture While Sitting at Work

The exercises in chair below are excellent to stay active while you’re deskbound.

Still, besides doing these exercises it’s important to keep a straight posture. As a result, you prevent unnecessary stress on your joints.

Do you know what’s great?

Doing exercises in your chair requires you to sit up straight. Even more so, activating your muscles helps you sit up straight easier.

It’s a virtuous circle!

In this blog on how to fix your sitting posture, I explain everything you need to know to improve your sitting posture (it includes many stretches & exercises).

How to Respond to Pain and Discomfort

Do you feel discomfort when you do these exercises in a chair?

If you feel stinging or radiating pain, that’s your limit. Don’t move further in that exercise, or stop entirely.

When you feel a bit of discomfort. A dull ache, an intense stretch, or a little burn, that’s all ok. As long as the intensity of the pain is not more than 3/10. Where 0 is no pain at all and 10 is the most pain you ever felt.

If your discomfort is more than 3/10 it’s time stop.

If you have questions about the exercises comment below this blog.

Neck Exercises in Chair

Your neck is often the first area that is affected by sitting at work.

In my case this is true. What about you?

When you look at your screen your neck compensates for your round upper back, and because of its great mobility, it ends up feeling stiff first.

Luckily, after you returned to sit up straight, there are 4 easy exercises in a chair that you can do right away.

1. Say Yes

Sit up straight and look ahead of you. On exhalation bring your chin to your chest. And after that, on inhalation move your head slowly back as far as you can. Make sure that before you let your head fall into your neck, you retract your cervical spine.

Repeat 8-15x while you use your breath to guide your speed.

Take care of your neck if it’s is hurting already. Moving your head into end positions can provoke pain. Therefore, only move until the pain. Never force, and never move past the pain.

Ready for the next exercise?

2. Lateral Flexions

Similar to the Yes-No exercise, but now you move your head from left to right while looking ahead.

Start by sitting up straight and by resting your hands in your lap. Relax your shoulder girdle and look in front of you.

Now, move your head from left to right. Keep your posture straight and make sure you only move your neck. At the end of the movement, you’ll notice a stretch in your opposite trapezius muscle. Once you feel that the stretch prevents you from moving further, repeat your movement on the other side.

Repeat this exercise 5-10x on each side.

3. Cervical Rotation

For cervical rotations, get into the same starting position as the two other neck exercises in a chair.

Rotate your head left and right as far as you can while keeping your eyes at the same height. Move until you feel that the stretch on the other side stops yours from moving further.

4. Head Circles

Last but not least: head circles.

Before your start, this is 1 of the exercises in a chair that might provoke discomfort and cracking of your joints.

That’s why it’s smart to start very slow.

First, sit in the same position as the other in chair exercises for the neck. Then, bring your chin to your chest. After, move your right ear to your right shoulder. Continue this movement until your head is in your neck, your left ear moved to your left shoulder, and you’re back with your chin on your chest.

Repeat this movement 1-5x on each side.


Shoulder Exercises in Chair

Do your shoulders round forward when you sit?

You can prevent this. Try to pull your shoulders back whenever you can.

Your shoulders are essential in sports like swimming, tennis, volleyball, basketball, and rock climbing. But that’s not all.

Did you know that even when you run or play soccer a stiff or injured shoulder can have consequences for the way you move?

Your hip muscles, for example, might compensate for the lack of movement in your shoulder. Which as a result, influences the way you run or kick.

Thus, it’s beneficial to keep your shoulders free and relaxed. Move them often at work, so that they don’t trouble you when you do your favorite sport after.

1. Trapezius Stretch

Everyone that sits at a desk often knows this muscle.

Don’t you know the trapezius? Then you’ve felt it.

I’m sure.

The trapezius muscles elevate your shoulder girdle and are first-responders when you feel stressed. Besides that, when you sit, they get stiff quickly when you don’t keep your shoulders back.

Stretch this muscle to loosen it up.

Sit up straight and look in front of you. Hold your seat with your right hand and pull your right shoulder down. Lay your left hand on your right ear and when you exhale pull your head left. Breathe deep and move further on each exhalation.

Hold for 3-6 deep breaths then move to the other side.

2. Thoracic Flexion & Extension

Start by sitting up straight and lay your hands on the opposite shoulder.

Bend your upper back but keep your neck and lower back straight. Flex your thoracic spine as far as you can then extend as far as you can.

Breathe out when you bend, breathe in when you extend.

Repeat 8-15x.

3. Spinal Twist

Put each leg on a side of the left corner of your chair. Rotate to the left and grab your back support. On exhalation twist further.

With your dedication to twisting as far as possible, it’s easy to bend your back. Prevent this from happening.

Focus and keep your posture straight.

4. Shoulder Girdle Protraction & Retraction

Rest your hands on the leg on the same side. Sit up straight and on inhalation pull your shoulder girdle back and down. On exhalation let go and move your shoulders forward.

Concentrate on tensioning the muscles between your shoulder blades when you retract your shoulders. When you move forward to do this without tension.

Repeat 8-15 times.


5. Shoulder Press

Time to raise those hands!

Bring your hands next to your ears with your hand palms facing forward.

Start by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then, move your hands up over your head until they touch. Keep them facing forward all the time.

Bring your hands back to the starting position.

Repeat 8-15x.

Core Exercises in Chair

Tension in your care helps you to sit up straight.

Moreover, a strong core helps to prevent back injuries.

This doesn’t mean you need to flex your abs like Arnold Schwarzenegger all the time.

Activating your abdomen will increase the tension of the muscles, also when you don’t consciously contract them.

Thus, the key is, to regularly train your core. Both in your chair as when you train or work-out.

1. Pelvic Nutation & Contra Nutation

Sit at the front of your chair with your back straight. Place your hands off your hips.

To do this exercise, move your pelvis forward and backward. Use your hands to guide the movement.

Repeat 8-15x.


2. Chair Dance

Are you ready to dance?

I know, this exercise might seem strange to your colleagues.

But of all the exercises in a chair, I think it’s the most efficient one. Because it combines mobility with tension.

If you have a chair with wheels, hold on to the desk and move the chair in circles beneath you.

If you don’t have a chair with wheels (like in the gif), make circles with your upper body over your pelvis. It’s the same movement, but another part of the body that makes it.


3. Knee Raise

Sit at the front of your chair and hold your hands 10-20cm above your knees.

Sit-up straight and pull your belly button in 1-3cm. This creates tension in your abdomen.

Raise your knee towards your hand while you keep your posture in the same position. Move your knee back down and do the same on the other side.

Repeat 8-15x on each side.

4. Almost Get-up

For this in chair exercise, stay at the front of your chair.

Put your hands on your sides and move your upper body forward. Stand up, but only until you lose touch with the chair. Then, sit down again in a controlled fashion.

Repeat 8-15x.


Leg Exercises in Chair

You barely use your legs when you sit. As a result, your leg muscles become inactive and weaken. To make sure your legs stay active to move them often below your desk.

The beautiful thing about these exercises is that you can do them while you work.

1. Leg Extension

While you work, sit up straight and extend your knee as far as you can. Hold for 3 seconds and move your leg back down. Repeat on the other side.

That’s all!

Do 8-15x on each side.

2. Floor Squeeze

Sit at the front of your chair. Sit up straight and press your feet into the floor as fierce as you can.

While you keep the pressing down on the floor rotate your feet out. As if you were to open the floor up (this exercise is best done with shoes because they add more friction to your movement).

Move back to the starting position and relax.

Repeat 8-15x.

3. Ankle Pumps

Press your toes on the floor and move your heels up. Then move your heels down and your toes up.

It’s that simple!

This exercise is great to improve blood circulation to the lower parts of your legs and feet.

Repeat 15x.

Bonus Exercises in Chair

Here are 3 bonus exercises in a chair. They’re easy to do and deep breathing helps you to relax. Besides that, the forearm stretches are great to prevent repetitive strain injuries (RSI) from using your mouse a lot.

1. Deep Breathing

Sit up straight with 1 hand on your chest and 1 hand on your stomach.

Inhale as deep as you can while you focus on pressing your hands as far out as you can.

Exhale by letting go entirely. Force the remainder of the air out of your lungs.

Repeat 5-10x.


2. Forearm Flexor Stretch

Keep your shoulders down while you extend 1 arm in front of you. Face your hand palm up.

Grab the extended hand with the other and pull it down. Hold for 30 seconds and then do the same on the other side.


3. Forearm Extensor Stretch

Do the same as with the previous exercise in a chair. What you do differently now is, facing your hand palm down. Then, make a fist with your thumb inside.

Grab the fist, rotate it out and pull it back. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat it on the other side.


Closing Note

These were 19 exercises in a chair.

Even though, it’s a large number don’t feel forced to do all. Select the ones you like most from each section and do them throughout your working day.

If you grow tired of an exercise, return to this blog and select another one.

And remember, if you can get up, get up! Walking is always better than sitting.

Now my question to you.

What do you struggle most with to stay active throughout the day? Did these exercises in chair solve your problem? Or, is there something else you’d like help with?

Write a comment below and tell me.

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